For so long our natural reaction has been to make our pain feel unacceptable, or more importantly, unsafe.
When our body breaks down, we curse it for being weak. When our mind keeps us up at night, we get frustrated. When we cry, we hide it, or apologize to any witnesses.
If we could take a few days and observe ourselves, we might be surprised by our lack of attentiveness to our various expressions of pain, be it mental, emotional, or physical.
Most of us are subconsciously programmed to fear pain, so that when it arrives we immediately seek ways to silence it. We do this so often without even seeking to understand the reason for its’ arrival.
When we take a moment to contemplate this…that’s pretty irrational behavior!
Yet even though it is pain, we can choose to open to it. We can choose to create space for it. We can choose to shift the environment the pain exists in, to one that is safe.
**It’s important to recognize that nurturing a safe environment for pain is an important and urgent skill set for any self-healing process even though it’s being exhorted and modeled for us nearly nowhere.
Let’s take a look at a hypothetical example. If we were to wake in the morning with severe back pain, how might we respond?
It is unlikely that our first response would be; “I love you, back pain!”
However, we should still look closely at our personal pain response in this imaginary scenario. This is because it’s likely that we’re still actively (albeit subconsciously) addressing our pain.
Many of us might respond to that morning back pain by thinking; “Stupid back pain.”
And as the pain continues, our narrative, often unnoticed, will continue.
“Stupid back pain,” can become—”stupid back,” which can become—”I hate my back,” which can also turn into—”It’s going to be another bad day,” which then quickly becomes—”Life is against me,” landing us on—”I hate my life.”
See what happened there…just under our attention? Eesh!
There are some very simple yet highly powerful concepts we can communicate to our pain that will immediately begin shifting the environment our pain exists in to a safer and kinder one.
When we create a kinder environment for our pain, we are actually in truth, creating a kinder environment for ourselves.
If it helps in the beginning, we can remind ourselves that these radically kind messages we speak to our pain, are in truth, kind messages we are speaking to ourselves.
Furthermore, these kind messages aren’t just for any old parts of the self, but rather for the deeply wounded and hurting parts of the self. These parts of the self have been doing some pretty heavy lifting on our behalf, unnoticed, for a while now. Even if this isn’t something we’re able to fully recognize yet, this is a truth worth bringing to our attention.
Imagine this. Imagine if we woke with that same back pain and instead—as radical or outrageous as it may seem—we responded to it this way:
“Thank you, back pain… Thank you for arriving to show me something important… I honor that… I hold a space for you… I am here for you… I love you… I trust you… I’m listening to you…”
If this was how we chose to speak to our pain, imagine what the long-term impact might be to our health.
But what if the pain was not physically manifested in the body? What if our pain stemmed from the mind? Would we dare to say such things to our pain then?
…I love you? I trust you? Thank you for arriving??
Anyone that has suffered at the hand of a debilitating mental illness is likely to shudder when imagining such concepts.
Could this be dangerous? Will I go mentally insane? Will this only empower the unruly beast inside my head? Will I…lose myself?
These were the things I wrestled with. OCD has battered me with intrusive thoughts and disrupted any opportunity I might have had at a normal life. It did this for many years without my knowledge, permission, or worst of all, awareness.
Yet even once I understood the name of my monster, I continued to wrestle with it for years without experiencing any real breakthroughs.
This is because, with or without mental illness, this is the nature of the mind. The nature of the mind is one of limitations. Therefore, it will always seek to understand everything within those limitations.
Even when we experience our most powerful and rousing moments in life (everything from a job loss to falling in love) the mind will seek to place them into small and defined spaces.
These moments are inherently meant to be raw, wild, untamed, chaotic, beautiful, glorious…detonative even. We might describe it as messy because that’s how it is.
The mind can become quite loud and raucous whenever this process is occurring. Yet none of this is truly driven by the mind. All of this is driven by the ego.
The ego is the lower self that gives in to impoverished ideas such as self-hatred, self-worthlessness, divisiveness, and fear. The ego seeks to remain comfortable and will choose safety over following the authentic path.
The mind reflects all of our fears. This is the language of the mind when it is in pain. The mind will do this loudly, coarsely, obtrusively, and even for some of us, comically. The mind will reflect our fears, endlessly, on a loop, as a way to help explain our current predicament.
The mind attaches these narratives to our fears. The mind seeks out boundaries. This is why we might say we need to “wrap our head around it,” when we are in a difficult situation.
The mind will try to place any of our powerful, untamed moments right back in that little box. It does this because it can tell how uncomfortable we are. Or better said, how uncomfortable our ego is!
This concept remains the same when we experience pain with our emotions.
Our heart center can become angry, for example, and we can feel that we are “wrong,” or “toxic,” because of this anger. Sometimes our anger can even be directed at ourselves because we feel frustrated dealing with our own internalized idea of “brokenness.”
This of course can lead us to ask: How can that be okay? How is any of this okay??
But it is okay. It really is absolutely, all okay.
There is room for it all because each of these individual expressions of pain are an important, sacred expression of you.
Over time we’ve been taught to label certain parts of our pain as;
“Ugly…Unacceptable…Not okay…Bad…Too much…Not enough…”
This does not make it the truth. Our soul knows this.
At any time, we can take back the narrative however, reject these toxic ideas, and begin to listen to our soul. We can honor our pain. We can recognize that our pain only wants to honor us.
This is a very difficult thing to do. Yet this is a very liberating thing to do.
Whatever thing has cast the largest shadow over us, this thing is the most urgent.
This thing is the most sacred.
This part of us asks that we don’t fear it, or its pain, but that this time, we respond differently, and we open to it.
There is true magic waiting to be unlocked inside those dark nights of the soul.
Image Credit: Duchess (on Pinterest)